As featured on p. 218 of "Bloggers on the Bus," under the name "a MyDD blogger."

Monday, March 05, 2007

The Lost War

Spring is coming, and this could be the deadliest year for coalition troops in Afghanistan yet. Instead of staying there and building the democratic institutions that were desperately needed, we bugged out for Iraq and allowed what is essentially a narco-state to flourish. They break records every year, but the problem is that they are opium harvest records. Opium is not the only thing that can be harvested from Afghanistan; it is resource-rich and strategically placed for a pipeline for natural resources. But the society is so broken (and outside of Kabul has never really been rebuilt) that opium is all a poor farmer can grow to make himself money, and in addition he's basically forced to do so by the warlords that control the rural areas.

Meanwhile the big story in Afghanistan is this disputed firefight, where Afghans claim that American troops fired on civilians, and the US military differs.

U.S. officials said militant gunfire may have killed or injured civilians, but Afghanistan's Interior Ministry and wounded Afghans said most of the bullets were American. Hundreds of angry Afghans protested near the blast site, denouncing the U.S. presence here.

As the Americans fled, they treated every car and person along the busy, tree-lined highway as a potential attacker, said Mohammad Khan Katawazi, the district chief of Shinwar in eastern Afghanistan's Nangarhar province.

"I saw them turning and firing in this direction, then turning and firing in that direction," Ahmed Najib, a 23-year-old hit by a bullet in his right shoulder, said of the U.S. forces. "I even saw a farmer shot by the Americans."

Lt. Col. David Accetta, the top U.S. military spokesman in Afghanistan, said gunmen may have fired on U.S. forces at multiple points during the escape. He said it was not yet clear how the casualties happened, though he left open the possibility that U.S. forces had shot civilians.

This has the aroma of fog-of-war type stuff. And the worst part is that soldiers are destroying the evidence:

Journalists covering the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan are there because they believe the ends--getting the story and the images out there, telling the truth--justify the means, which is to say, putting their own lives in grave danger by even being in country. Imagine the anger and disappointment a reporter or photographer feels when a story is buried (or even axed completely) for reasons beyond his or her control (see Logan, Lara; CBS) or a series of important images are deleted or destroyed--which is exactly what happened to news photographers Sunday after they documented the gun battle after a suicide bombing:

Journalists working for AP said US troops erased images of a vehicle in which three people had been shot dead.

The US military said it could not confirm its troops had seized any film.

There appears to be a big cover-up here, one that has some pretty dangerous implications. We know that these things eventually get out (see Lai, My or Ghraib, Abu), and it's just ridiculous to add insult to injury by trying to rewrite history and pretend it never happened.

Mind you, this is right at the BEGINNING of the Taliban spring offensive that is rumored to be bigger than ever. And now that the Taliban have safe haven in Pakistan, they're clearly more resurgent than ever. The Bush Administration encouraged the Pakistani government to cut this deal with the Taliban giving them safe harbor. People refuse to see the implications of that, from the opium output to the brazenness of the Taliban forces to the increased tension on the part of the US troops who know that something big is coming along.

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